As part of early child development, there is a question by all kids about what to do when confronted by a bully. Generally, the answer is to not seek conflict, but if necessary be prepared to defend yourself on the assumption that one or two demonstrations will be enough to deter your potential tormentors. Whether you leave it at that involves some cultural and gender differences.
Last week's incident in which four lightly armed criminals held off the US Navy for five days brought a number of historical comparisons - Jimmy Carter's 444 days with hostages in Iran, including a failed rescue attempt; Lyndon Johnson's 1968 saga with the USS Pueblo spy-ship in North Korea with the crew released after eleven months; Gerry Ford's abortive Mayaguez incident with the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Or, the Israeli rescue of hostages at Entebbe, Uganda in 1976. Fortunately, the conversation in the coffeehouses around the world will be about the Navy SEALS who were able to fire three perfect 25 meter shots from a moving destroyer into a bobbing life raft in the dark. Some will note the answering of Easter Sunday prayers. And Captain Richard Phillips will join US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger, the passengers of Flight 93, and the 9/11 firefighters as examples of American character.
For President Obama, whose approval was required, the stakes were high. Domestically, he could not appear impotent as he tries to unwind the Cold War era policies relative to the Cuba, US-Soviet nuclear armaments, and defense contractors. Internationally, he appears disinclined to confront the emerging nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea, and his decision to close Guantanamo comes without a clue as to how to deal with real terrorists. Payment of a ransom for an attack on a US flagged vessel taking food aid to his father's country of Kenya would not appear to have been an option.
But where from here? With some 20 boats and 300 hostages in the hands of Somali pirates and continuing hijackings, the time would seem to be right for a repeat of Thomas Jefferson's cleaning up of the Barbary Coast in 1801-1805. From a distance, the tactics do not seem too difficult - a blockade of offending Somali ports; sinking of a few pirate "mother ships"; alliance with an amenable warlord or two to provide stable governance. At least the French would seem to be with us. To the voices of the left who are already challenging the severity of the Navy's actions and the potential for a fair trial of the remaining hijacker, nothing short of apologies would be adequate. For many, the Revolutionary War slogan "Don't Tread on Me" seems more appropriate.
This week's You Tube (starting at about a minute into the video) is a discussion between Energy Secretary Chu and Illinois representative Judy Biggert about the administration's approach to nuclear energy. While she is very knowledgeable and supportive (the DOE's Argonne laboratory is in her district), his tap dance is most disingenuous and disappointing.
Bill Bowen - 4/17/09